By Houda Mzioudet.
Tunis, 18 February 2016:
Thirty-one Tunisian fishermen from the town of Zarzis whose were arrested for illegal fishing inside . . .[restrict]Libya waters and taken to Zawia last week have been freed along with their boats. Others arrested at the same time, however, remain in custody in Tripoli pending settlement of their cases. The exact number is unclear.
Although the boats were released, the Libyan authorities have warned Tunisian fishermen that in future they will confiscate boats in future if they enter and fish illegally in Libyan waters, according to Mukhtar Hammali, president of the local Zarzis fishermen’s association.
As a result local fishermen are now demanding that the Tunisian authorities negotiate an agreement with Libya on a “common fishing zone” that would allow them to fish in Libyan waters legally. According to Tunisia’s Watania 1 TV channel, Zarzis port was brought to a standstill yesterday after the freed fishermen returned, when their colleagues went on strike demanding action to that effect or, if not, protection from the Tunisian navy while they are at sea.
Chamseddine Bourassine, head of the Zarziz branch of the national union of fisherman, warned that matters could escalate if Zarzis fishermen were not provided sufficient protection.
The Tunisian government has little room for manoeuvre, however. The two countries fixed their maritime borders in 1988 following an international court ruling six years earlier and the Libyan authorities are unlikely to look favourably to any change in the status quo. [/restrict]